Free Speech in a Time of Culture War

Posted by University of Pennsylvania on February 19, 2018

Special Panel Discussion: FREE SPEECH in a Time of CULTURE WAR

  • Sigal Ben-Porath (Free Speech on Campus) and
  • Keith Whittington (Speak Freely), with
  • George Ciccariello-Maher (discussant) and
  • Rogers Smith (moderator)

Mon. February 26, 4:30 pm
Silverstein Forum Stiteler Hall 1st Floor (Accessibility)
Free and open to the public / Food will be served


SINCE THE FREE SPEECH MOVEMENT OF THE 1960S, freedom of expression at colleges and universities has been seen not only as a necessary element of academic inquiry, but as a key tool to further social and political justice. At the same time, recognition of the harm and exclusionary effects of certain types of unrestrained speech has prompted calls, often by students themselves, to limit expression on campuses. And with the alt-right seeking to shatter norms of political discourse, campus speech has become a battleground once again. In the midst of these battles, the Andrea Mitchell Center has convened a set of prominent academics who have struggled with the complexities of the issue to help find a way forward.

SIGAL BEN-PORATH is Professor of Education, Political Science, and Philosophy at Penn, as well as a member of the Mitchell Center’s Executive Committee. Her research focuses on citizenship education, normative aspects of educational and social policy, and the social and educational effects of war. She is the author of Free Speech on Campus (2017), which offers a framework for thinking about free-speech controversies both inside and outside the college classroom that seeks to shift the focus away from disputes about legality and harm and toward democracy and inclusion.

KEITH E. WHITTINGTON is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University and a leading authority on American constitutional theory and law. He is the author of Speak Freely (forthcoming April 2018), which examines such hot-button issues as trigger warnings, safe spaces, hate speech, disruptive protests, speaker disinvitations, the use of social media by faculty, and academic politics. Putting free speech and civil discourse at the heart of the university’s mission of creating and nurturing an open and diverse community dedicated to learning, Whittington highlights the dangers of empowering campus censors to limit speech and enforce orthodoxy.

GEORGE CICCARIELLO-MAHER (discusssant) is an activist and former Associate Professor of Politics and Global Studies at Drexel University, as well as a lecturer in philosophy and political economy at the Venezuelan Ministry of Planning and Finance’s School of Planning. He is the author of Decolonizing Dialectics (2017), which brings the work of Georges Sorel, Frantz Fanon, and Enrique Dussel together to formulate a dialectics suited to the struggle against the legacies of colonialism and slavery.

ROGERS M. SMITH (moderator) is Penn SAS Associate Dean for the Social Sciences, Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Political Science, and former Director of the Andrea Mitchell Center.

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